Effects of a single administration of morphine or footshock stress on natural killer cell cytotoxicity

Y. Shavit, F. C. Martin, R. Yirmiya, S. Ben-Eliyahu, G. W. Terman, H. Weiner, R. P. Gale, J. C. Liebeskind*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


We previously reported that daily exposure for 4 days to an inescapable form of footshock stress, known to cause opioid-mediated analgesia, suppressed the cytotoxic activity of splenic natural killer (NK) cells in rats. Similarly, daily injection of high doses of morphine (≥30 mg/kg) for 4 days also suppressed splenic NK cell activity. We now report that a single exposure to the opioid form of footshock stress or a single high dose of morphine induces suppression of splenic NK cell cytotoxicity. This effect is evident 3 h after treatment, returning to normal by 24 h. Morphine-induced NK suppression is evident in both male and female rats, is blocked by the opiate antagonist naltrexone, and develops tolerance. Morphine-induced NK suppression is seen in cells derived simultaneously from the spleen, bone marrow, and peripheral blood, suggesting that this suppression does not result from a selective egress of NK cells from the spleen.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)318-328
Number of pages11
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1987
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by NIH Grant NS07628 and by a gift from the David H. Murdock Foundation for Advanced Brain Studies. Y.S. was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a postdoctoral fellow. F.C.M. was supported by NlMH Grant MH15345.


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